January 26th, 2004


LJ Info

Sometimes my News friends page gets too much for me (like when I go away for 3 days), but I still want to check the latest LJ news.  So I've just separated off all the lj communities into their own friends group, which you can find here.

It's worth keeping up on some of this stuff.  Otherwise you'd miss things like the new sixdegrees tool.

Art and Commerce

One of the things that occasionally annoys me is people complaining about those evil music companies and the terrible way they treat their artists - how musicians make a tiny amount of the money paid for each song and how they wouldn't mind paying 10p a time to the artist themselves, but paying all of those leeches in the middle is just completely unreasonable.

Now, there's no love lost between me and the music industry - I believe that copyright ought to last 10 years and then works should enter the public domain and that the current system is tending towards an infinite length of copyright, to no end but to fill the coffers of huge companies stocked largely with lawyers.

However, when it comes to bands producing new music, nobody forces them to sign the rights over to a corporation, or to pay a percentage of their royalties to them - they choose to do so of their own free will.  Certainly, some of them are so star struck they'd sign their left arm away if it meant an appearance on MTV, but most of them realise that music publishers actual provide a vital service.

Unless, that is, they want to record, produce, mix, press, design the artwork for, package and ship all the CDs themselves.  

Oh, and publicise themselves, organise concerts, deal with security, arrange radio airplay, or any of a hundred other promotional aspects that mean that they reach a large audience.

Most musicians, of course, don't want to have to worry about any of that - they want to record music, play live and then spend as much of the rest of the time enjoying themselves.  They're happy to let other people deal with all the mundane nonsense that's necessary to get the music from them to their audience.

Of course, there are numerous unscrupulous people out there who will happily tie people into unreasonable contracts, there is bribery and corruption involved in airplay time and there are all sorts of dodgy accounting practices designed to make it look like an album sold five million copies and still didn't make any money.

All of these are things that need to be dealt with, and if people concentrated on them then they would be.  But that would require actual understanding of how  the music industry works.  It's much easier to assume that everyone barring the guy holding the guitar is eeevil.

Capitalism in general and the music industry specifically aren't going anywhere, because when you get right down to it, they work.  If you want them to work more fairly then you have to get involved and find a way of making them do so.  Standing on the sidelines and sneering just doesn't cut it.

Aggregators, Syndication and Custom Friends Lists

I have on the order of 200 entries on my friends list.  I've never met the vast majority of these, nor am I likely to.  A large chunk of them aren't actually meetable, because they aren't actually people at all.

Long before I started reading Livejournal I was reading a variety of newsfeeds via Radio Userland.  This tool allowed me to collect news from a variety of different sources into one place where I could read them at my leisure.  It meant I no longer had to go searching across a multiplicity of different sites to see if any of them had posted anything new and saved me a vast amount of time.

I tried a variety of different newsreaders after that, ranging from Amphetadesk to Feedreader, always looking for one that would simply display my multiple feeds in a vaguely useful way.  I already had a way of keeping track of whay my friends were up to - my livejournal friends list - what I wanted was something similar for reading news with.  The most important thing about this program was that it had to be somehow accessible from wherever I was - otherwise I wouldn't be able to check news from both home and work without somehow synchronising where I was up to, something that would be tricky at best.

Someone in the LJ development team obviously felt the same need, because from out of nowhere came the Livejournal syndication system.  Suddenly any syndicated feed could be viewed within Livejournal and added transparently to your friends list.  Which was nice.

Less nice was the fact that these new 'friends' were interleaved chaotically with my actual friends.  And there were far more entries from the newsfeeds than there were from real people - after all, the BBC alone would frequently have 20-30 stories on their feed.  Add Slashdot, The Guardian, The Register, New Scientist and a host of other small sites (Neil Gaiman's journal, Warren Ellis' Blog, Greg Costikyan's journal) and suddenly it was very easy to miss the posts by people I cared about.

Fortunately there was a simple solution - friends groups.  By creating a friends group called News and adding all of the newsfeeds to it, I could simply go to http://www.livejournal.com/users/andrewducker/friends/news to see all of my daily news in one place.  

Once the syndication system got going, feeds for pretty much everything sprung up.  When the site itself didn't provide a feed (less and less common as time went on), people set up screen-scraping programs to extract the text from the site into a separately hosted feed.  Some of these included comics, which I filtered into their own friends group - http://www.livejournal.com/users/andrewducker/friends/comics/ - removing the last daily trawl I'd been making.

What brought this to mind was being removed from the friends list of adders, who was cutting out all the people he didn't know in person.  He said, however, he'd added me to his aggregator.  Which left me wondering - why take me off of one aggregator (which is part of what LJ does, after all) just to add me to another?

Head over Heart

Sometimes my heart makes me cheer at things at things my head would rather not.

Sometimes my fantasies take me into areas that would horrify me in real life.

Sometimes my feelings contradict each other in the most peculiar ways.

I do not, for instance, believe in the divine right of kings, in fate or in any kind absolute Good and Evil.

I did, on the other hand, cheer when Aragorn, rightful king of Gondor, came to the defence of mankind (when I say cheer, I mean silently - I loathe people talking in cinemas).

I respond emotionally to moments like that, to Luke Skywalker taking up his own birthright, to all that kind of fantasy nonsense which the rational side of me thinks is ridiculous (I don't support the concept of royalty in any shape or form).

I happily blast people into small chunks, drop grenades on the heads of my enemies, chase them down with chainsaws and run them over with tanks.  Do I think this should happen to real people?  Not a chance.

It does make me understand why it is that so many people _do_ feel a sense of bloodlust.  Or why so many people do support the monarchy.  Because deep down part of me feels the same way.  I just don't let that part of me out into the world.

Convert or Die!

There are now 916,000 people in the country who attend a Church of England ceremony once a year.

There are 930,000 people who attend an Islamic worship on a similar basis.

And apparently it's harder to count muslims.

However, the combined total is still less than 2% of the population.  Which, frankly, is how I like my religious people.


Just posted 3 things I wrote on trains while wandering the country at the weekend.

I'm also downloading a Palm client I found (with the help of aberbotimue) onto my Palm, so next time I'll be posting from wherever I happen to be, rather than when I get home.

Oh, this is sooo cooool.